Book of Philemon
There are a lot of people who try to run from their past, with the hope that it will all go away in time and all will be forgotten. But the sad reality is that never goes away it festers and eats away at your heart and conscience. For some it takes months, even years to realize the unresolved issues [whether it be a disagreement or a sin against one another]. We see this even in the church! Statistically this is one of the main reasons people leave churches and attend another one. This is one of the number one reasons why pastors leave churches. Trials happen and conflicts falls on families, marriages and people tend to flee then to work through the circumstance. See, unresolved issues or unwillingness to resolve issues is really sad, because unforgiveness is like a nasty virus and it will spread throughout the entire church if not dealt with immediately. And as Born Again Christians, sometimes the hardest part of dealing with forgiveness is being reconciled with those who have hurt us, or those that we have hurt. Sometimes it’s just easier to ‘FORGET’ a bad relationship and walk away that to see forgiveness and restoration.
Let me ask you a couple of personal questions? Has someone close to you maybe a(family member/ friend/ co-worker); hurt you so deeply you couldn’t forgive them? Better yet! Has that someone or that situation has hindered your Christian walk, because you are not willing to forgive? What would be your first response to a situation when someone has hurt you deeply?
- Do you get bitter and resentful?
- Do you get so mad that you would like to hit them or break things?
- Do you sit and ponder some ways to get back at them, to get even?
- Do you speak nastily words or gossip about them to other people?
- Do you feel saddened or broken hearted for what has just happened to your relationship?
Forgiveness is “the act of excusing or pardoning others in spite of their: offences, their short comings, it is the pardon or remission of an offence or crime. Remember this important truth! If you struggle in the area of forgiveness, understand the every one of us have committed a crime! A crime against a perfect, holy and righteous God. That’s why forgiveness in the New Testament is directly linked to Christ Jesus and the precious gospel that we love. In Luke 23:34 we read “Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." In Eph 1:7 Paul said “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”Jesus came to this earth to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, from our wickedness, from our short comings, from ourselves. His forgiveness is an essential part of the Gospel message and for the believer’s life! It is the Gospel message. Jesus said "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Mark 11:25-26.
God’s forgiveness of us demands that we forgive others. Why? Because it’s only by His grace that we are forgiven and it’s only by His grace that we are able to forgive others. Christian forgiveness starts with a heart for reconciliation, not resentment and bitterness. Why? Because God places no limits on the extent to which Christians are to forgive others. Otherwise if God put limits on forgiveness, no one could be saved. Listen to what Jesus said to Peter when asked about forgiveness…..Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” Matt 18:22. Jesus said forgiveness should be granted unendingly, we must always work to reconciliation and forgiveness no matter what. I think this passage that Jesus explains is exemplified every day in our homes as parents, when we deal with our children. Please don’t miss this truth, a true forgiving spirit will always show the maturity of the person and their spiritual walk with the Lord. As Proverbs 16:32 “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty (kings, or rulers), and he who rules his spirit (one who displays self- control) than he who takes a city.”
See when it comes to the matter of forgiveness we have to consider what the Lord Jesus demands from us. It may require you and me to be proactive and make the first move towards reconciliation with the person who hurt you. I want us to look into this personal letter from a man who desired for his friend, a brother in Christ to forgive someone who they both knew very well. His name was Onesimus. A slave who found Christ through Paul’ ministry, after fleeing to Rome for stealing from his master.(v18). See this is a beautiful letter about the:
- Providence of God in salvation to fallen sinners.
- The grace of God expressed in the gospel that saves.
- The unconditional love of God in the believer’s life.
- The beauty of friendship between brothers in Christ.
- The steps to restoration and genuine love, and understanding for forgiveness.
This is what the Christian life should be all about in this small letter, when it comes to forgiveness. A personal willingness and a desire to do what is right in the eyes of God. Our desire should be nothing less than to please our Lord God for His goodness towards us sinners and glorify His name through reconciliation. Why do I say that? Do you realize that people in our community around the world are watching us? As this person who was a staunch atheist who said not long before she died "What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me." This person saw something in Christian’s we tend to overlook ourselves at time! A genuine love and concern for others. I want you to put yourself in Philemon’s shoes for a moment as the one who was the victim in this letter that Paul pens. We need to understand how important this personal letter was that Paul wrote We need to understand how important it is for believers to forgive one another. As Paul said “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32. 3 IMPORTANT THINGS we need to consider for forgiveness to happen, and it’s found in this personal letter by brother to a brother in Christ.
EMBRACING FORGIVENESS MUST START WITH A SELFLESS HEART (V5- V7)
Everything starts and finishes from the heart! What do I mean by that? Look what Paul noticed about Philemon and his love for others (v5). That kind of selflessness is where forgiveness becomes easier to accept or to give because you are growing in your Christian walk you see the beauty of the gospel in your own salvation. Philemon wanted nothing more than to please the one who gave him a new life (v6) “Jesus Christ”...See the Word of God is a powerful love letter that will always steer you in the right direction and it will also refresh and transform you into the likeness of Christ. Look how it affects Paul. (v7) “great joy” (Paul had great comfort in Philemon’s selfless heart). The Apostle Paul knew Philemon had a shepherding love for the truth of the Gospel, a caring love through prayer for the saints and a love for all the saints. Paul wrote this letter because he had a great concern for 2 brothers in Christ Jesus, 2 men saved by grace. Paul knew all to well the importance of restoration for the believer, because he also knew the pain of unforgiveness. Look at how it affects you and the others when forgiveness has been avoided by one or more parties.
- It change the way you act or behave around that person?
- It causes you to fall into habitual sin more often?
- It has lasting affects to how you perform your job?
- It affects a person’s home life (marriage, relationships, quiet time with God?)
We must always seek the interest of restoration because our Lord Jesus set the standard by forgiving us our crimes towards a holy God. This is the first step to forgiveness. It begins here: a selfless heart that is faithful to Christ Jesus as Lord and also to the saints of God.
EMBRACING FORGIVENESS REQUIRES A WILLINGNESS TO LISTEN TO THEIR HEART (V8-V14)
Forgiveness must be willing not forced. Otherwise it’s not really true forgiveness. Look at (v8-v9). Paul is appealing with Philemon to look into his heart and he’s not relying on his authority as an apostle….but as a friend who wants to see two people come together again. Look at (v14). True forgiveness needs to from a willing heart and desire to see God be glorified through reconciliation.
Joseph over his brother’s betrayal (Gen 45a) “he kissed ll his brothers and wept over them...” Jesus’ love for his broken servant Peter (John 21) “Lord you know all things; you know I love you” Stephen the first martyr as he faces the Sanhedrin (Acts 7) with a loud voice “Lord do not charge them with this sin” Every single one of those situations displayed a willingness to see reconciliation for God to get the glory. See! Paul could have forced Philemon to say I forgive you and accept Onesimus back with open arms. But Paul knew that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. Philemon had to look deep within his own heart and make that conscience decision for himself. “I want to forgive Onesimus”, “I want to forgive that person at work, school, or at home”. See this is where we need to proceed with extreme caution! A person can outwardly say I forgive you, but never really forgive that person inwardly from the heart. I understand not all situations are an overnight fix where we are all singing “Kumbaya my lord” Here is the caution! If there are no steps towards restoration and reconciliation than we are no better than the hypocrite Pharisee’s who were supposed to exemplify the grace our Lord towards one another. It creates a harden heart to grace that has already been given and it leaves a person like this gentleman General Oglethorpe, who once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin." Philemon I plead with your faithfulness to the Lord that you will do what is right not because you are required, but because you desire to make things right again with your servant Onesimus. Application: Christian I plead with you if someone has wronged you. Look within your heart and listen! Forgiveness must come from the heart voluntarily (a willingness of the will) in order for it to be genuine. (v14) again.
EMBRACING FORGIVENESS IS ALWAYS COMPLEMENTED WITH PEACE AND JOY IN THE HEART (V20-V21)
When a person humbles themselves with a selfless love and willing heart, forgiveness brings joy and peace. Look at (v20). By forgiving Onesimus Paul would have peace, a great joy in his own heart. That same joy as he had with the church in Philippi “Therefore if there is any consolation (encouragement) in Christ, if any comfort of love (portrays the Lord coming close and whispering words of gentle cheer or tender counsel), if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”Phil 2:1-2. Paul knew that Philemon will forgive Onesimus because of his maturity as a Christian man who took God’ word seriously. Why? Because of what Paul says near the end of his letter. (v21). Me personally, I hate when someone is mad at me for something I did. Ask my wife. I have a difficult time myself when things are not resolved, especially when I’m angry with them or vice versa. It’s like what Paul said to the church at Ephesus "BE ANGRY, AND DO NOT SIN": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, Eph 4:26. We as Christians [God’s children] must resolve our differences before the sun goes down on the day. I know that’s hard to do……….. but we MUST try! We are never to let it fester because it affects our Christian walk; it affects our relationship with God.
Paul knew this all too well in his life! Remember what he was before the Lord took a hold of his life….a Christian hater! We must do whatever it takes to make things right again. (Look at v17-v18). Paul had a confidence in Philemon, a joy in his heart that things were going to be just fine. Not as a master and his slave but as 2 brothers saved by the grace of God. (v16). When a genuine heart of forgiveness happens, it affects everyone around you!
- Your family
- Your local church
- Relationships with others
- Your personal spiritual walk
- Your health
It is vital that we try our best to seek forgiveness in all situations of our lives with the help of the Holy Spirit, because it leads to joy and a clear conscience of heart. We all make mistakes sometimes and we all need to be forgiven of something we have done to our shame on a daily basis. Christ called it sin and we need to be able to forgive any and all of our little problems or grievances that come our way whether big or small. Have you done that this morning? Is there someone you know who needs your help of encouragement, in this area of forgiveness? I guess the big personal question is: Do you need help in this area of your life? Or do you say this is not for me, you really don’t know what I have been through Mike Your right I don’t know what you have been through, but I know someone who does, and He laid His life down for you and me and His name is Jesus Christ. Please a plead with as Paul...don’t let selfish pride get in the way of a refreshed and fervent (a burning passionate) heart for others when you've been wronged or have wronged someone. As George Herbert said "He who cannot forgive others destroys the bridge over which he himself must pass."
It has been said….
- To forgive is to turn the key, open the cell door, and let the prisoner walk free.
- To forgive is to write in large letters, across a debt, “nothing owed”.
- To forgive is to pound the gavel in a courtroom and declare, “Not Guilty!”
- To forgive is to bundle up all the garbage and trash and dispose of it, leaving the house clean and fresh.
- To forgive is to loosen the moorings of a ship and release it to the open sea.
- To forgive is to grant a full pardon to a condemned criminal.
- To forgive is to smash a clay pot into a thousand pieces so it can never be pieced together again.
We must always embrace the truth of seeking to forgive and the same rule applies to seeking forgiveness. As Charles Swindoll said “Live long enough, and you will understand the difficulty of offering forgiveness when you have been wronged. It does not come easy, yet as believers, we have to recognize that our ability and willingness to offer it are the result of Christ’s saving work on the cross. Because of that fact, forgiveness serves as a determining factor in who we say we are and how we hope to live our lives. When we do not forgive, bitterness takes root in our hearts and chokes the vitality out of us.” Let me ask you! In what ways has forgiveness been a struggle for you since you accepted Christ’s forgiveness? Please allow Paul’s letter to Philemon to encourage forgiveness in your own life, and trust God to foster renewed life in your heart and your relationships. Listen to Paul as I close “..... do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:30-32. Do you believe that this morning? The harder question is……. can you do that, this morning?